Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Apostles' Creed- I Believe in the Holy Spirit

I believe in the Holy Spirit. Theologians have said that the Holy Spirit is the least known member of the trinity. God the father is a familiar image- maker of heaven and earth. Jesus Christ is the savior, God’s only Son, send to save us. In the fullness of time, God sent forth Jesus into the world, born of a woman, born under the law, a full and complete human being. He was human. He was redeemer. He was King of Kings who comes to judge the living and the dead.

Now, I believe in the Holy Spirit. Of course, the Apostles’ Creed is organized around the church’s understanding of the trinity.

In John chapter 14, Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples. You can almost sense the deep emotion as you read through the words. Jesus says: “I am going away. I will prepare a place for you so that where I am there you may be also. I will come back for you.” He says: “I will not leave you orphaned.”

The Holy Spirit is the presence of the living God with us. Jesus says: “In the meantime, I will send you the paraclete, the advocate, to be with you forever…” After resurrection, Jesus breathes on his disciples and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit…”

I believe that every Christian, every person who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, is filled with the Holy Spirit. When you receive Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within. Now, that’s not to say that the Spirit has not been present with you from the beginning. We believe that God’s grace is with you from your first breath. But, now when you accept Christ for yourself, the Holy Spirit, God’s own presence fills you. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE!

No matter where you go, or where you find yourself, God is with you. On his death bed, John Wesley said: “the best of all is God is with us…”

The Holy Spirit is the presence of God as close to you as your breath. You’ve all said: “when I pray my prayers don’t get through the ceiling.” But your prayers only have to get as far as your mouth. God is with you.

The Holy Spirit is also about community. In the power of the Spirit, we are given the church. We are given each other so that we won’t get picked off. Watch how people gather. A group is over here. On the other side of the room is another group. Over there is one person alone. Who’s more likely to be picked off? The one who is alone.

God gives us by the Holy Spirit’s power the church so that we have someone always watching out backs. The devil is always looking for ways to pick us off, to isolate us from the groups, to take advantage of the fact that we are alone.

Third, the Holy Spirit is about ministry. Every Christian is given a ministry by the Holy Spirit. We are given gifts to be used for the church and the world. Many and varied gifts are a part of the community of faith. No gift is more important than the others. All gifts give glory to God.

Jacob’s name was changed to Israel which means: “One who wrestles with God.” If we do anything that is less than wrestling with God we are misusing God’s great gifts.

All this is to say that by the Holy Spirit God/Jesus is alive and well and living on planet earth, working and willing his way among us. In addition to being filled by the Holy Spirit we may in fact experience new life and hope when the Spirit comes upon us anew. May we all pray for the further gift of the Holy Spirit giving us all that God has in store for us.

I believe in the Holy Spirit.

Dave Nichols

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Apostles' Creed- Jesus

Continuing with the Apostles’ Creed, I want to comment more on what we are doing with it. I said at the outset that some thinkers say that we don’t know what we believe until we say it. I’ve thought a lot about that. Why is that? Is it because we are more committed to what we believe when we put it into words in public? A wedding is real when, in front of God and everybody, the bride and the groom say: “I will…”

Maybe that’s part of it, but I think there’s more. I think that there is something about our mouths and our voices that seals the deal. Now, the Bible teaches us to be careful about our tongues. Read the Book of James. The tongue is compared to a rudder on a large ship. It’s a small thing but can steer the whole body. Use it carefully.

So, our mouths, our tongues, are instruments of expressing our deepest convictions. We are living in a time when it is getting more and more difficult to say: “I believe in God…” Just say it out loud. Or, say in a group some time when you don’t know the folks well. See what reaction you get.

Even more difficult to say out loud, “I believe in Jesus Christ…” To believe in Jesus these days is to invite ridicule from some. Admittedly, we are living in the Bible belt, so there are a lot of church folks around us. And, we are likely to be friends who are also Christians. But, there are a growing number of people who are not just non-Christians but are hostile to any mention of Jesus.

A creed reminds us of the importance of declaring with our mouths our convictions. Sunday, I said that we believe in Jesus Christ as a human being, as someone who has experienced all of life, even life unto death. Yet, in him was more of God than we have ever seen before. God was in Christ, says Paul, reconciling the world to himself. Jesus gives us the gift of redemption. He, mysteriously, in the cross, gives us God’s love is its fullness. He is the one who seeks to set things right. We’ve messed up, that’s for sure. Jesus comes to make it right again.

Jesus is also the King of Kings. He is exalted. He who descended also ascended to the right hand of God, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. On the third day, he rose from the dead triumphant over sin and death. In victory, Jesus gives us new life, abundant life, eternal life. If…if we go through the gate, the door, that is Jesus.

Jesus is the one who has done something about death forever. All who choose to be in his company, to respond to his love, to accept his gracious gift, are assured of life forever.

Jesus is the one who calls us into the future. He calls us home. Say it out loud: “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord….”

See you in Church!
Dave Nichols

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Apostles Creed

I am doing a series of sermons on the Apostles’ Creed. We say it every Sunday at church and with our modern fear that we will do something twice, some may have concerns about overdoing it. That is, if you say it too much, you won’t appreciate it. It will become rote and lose its meaning.

People used to be afraid of communion that way. So, it was argued that if you had communion too much you wouldn’t appreciate it. If you had it only once a quarter or so, then you would more likely know its true meaning. Of course, it’s not true that we necessarily lose the meaning of the things we do a lot.

There is always a danger that something will become too routine and lose its orginal meaning, that we will just get tired of it. To avoid this, some try to do something new in worship every week. Variety, while a good thing, doesn’t necessarily give us more of God. We try new things all the time in worship. But, there are things that we do over and over again.

We say the Apostles’ Creed every Sunday for several reasons. One, as someone has said, “You don’t’ know what you believe until you say it…” So, we say what we believe to remind ourselves of the basics of our faith. Sometimes we come to church through struggle and we stand together in church and say the words that are a comfort to us. We say them in church to remember that we are not alone. Even when we can’t say them easily, the others in church help me to say them out loud.

Another reason that we say the Creed every Sunday is because of the age in which we are living. Everything, almost everything, works against our belief in this God of the Christian faith. Also, we are living in an age when many are not reared in the church, as in past times, and they do not know what we believe. So, when they come to church or visit, the Creed helps us say in a few words what we believe.

I have often said that I like to say it every Sunday if for no other reason than to say: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins…”

The Apostles’ Creed comes from an earlier version, probably called the Roman Creed. It probably was put into its current shape by the 8th or 9th century. Originally, we believe that it was a baptismal creed. Persons who were converted to Christ were trained in the substance of faith, belief in the trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to be able to say it at baptism. “I believe in God, the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth…”

I have in my ministry run into some persons who resented any creed, remembering a time when they felt forced to say the right words. Maybe that’s true for some. Maybe some have come from a setting in which they were manipulated and “made” to say something. However, for most of us the creed stands as a guard against believing in a generic god.

Our God is specific. What we know about this God is what has been revealed to us through the scriptures. Our God is a god who has done certain things and made certain moves in history and in our lives. We proclaim it gladly and offer it joyfully.

I believe. Stand up and say it boldly, freely, I believe. It’s a good feeling to believe.

Dave Nichols

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